- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2002

William Raspberry, columnist for The Washington Post, is normally a reasonable fellow, especially when he recounts his "conversations" with his Everyman cabbie. However, in an uncharacteristically aggressive Jan. 7 hit piece ("When Partisan PR Passes as News"), Mr. Raspberry cites a recent cover story in Insight, which he describes as the magazine of "the ultraconservative Washington Times," as proof that "conservative writers are more apt to write as Republicans than liberals or moderates" such as himself are apt "to write as Democrats."
Mr. Raspberry charged that the Insight cover story in question "The 'R' Word: The Making of the Clinton Recession," written by John Berlau represented work done by "cavalier disregarders of the truth" who were "bent only on pushing [their] political agenda." Coming as it does in the wake of former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg's explosive expose of the liberalism that has dominated the work of CBS reporters and commentators for years, Mr. Raspberry's thesis is simply ludicrous. As for his specific charge involving the Insight article about the origin of the recession, anybody can judge for himself how moderate and reasonable the argument was by reading the story online at insightmag.com.
The notion that the current recession could be attributed to policies undertaken during the Clinton administration seems utterly unbelievable to Mr. Raspberry. "The Clinton recession?" he asks incredulously, italicizing Clinton for emphasis. While acknowledging that it makes little sense to "give Clinton all the credit for the boom or Bush all the blame for the bust," he nonetheless cites a "political rule" that "incumbents get credit or blame for what happens on their watch." Yes, this is the rule that became the media's gospel throughout the 1981-82 recession, which was by far the deepest postwar recession. Despite the fact that Jimmy Carter bequeathed Ronald Reagan an economy in which cumulative inflation exceeded 25 percent during the preceding two years, and the prime interest rate peaked at 21.5 percent just before Mr. Reagan entered office, liberal commentators gleefully attributed the inevitable recession to Reaganomics, a term, it's worth recalling, they stopped using after the Reagan expansion proved to be so durable.
Just as the recession that the nation endured during the first two years of the Reagan administration in no way could be tied to Mr. Reagan's policies, neither can the current downturn, which began in March, be conceivably blamed on the policies President Bush pursued during his first five weeks in office. To believe that is absurd. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Rep. Nita Lowey, who is chief of the Democrats' congressional campaign committee, are in fact blaming the current recession on Mr. Bush. And Mr. Raspberry, who assures his readers that he is not "partisan" but only an "earnest observer," is not one bit offended by such nonsense.
Mr. Raspberry takes issue with economist Brian Wesbury's assertion in the article that the prosperity of the 1990s was part of "one continuous boom since the early 1980s." In fact, Mr. Raspberry is in total denial about the 1980s. To Mr. Raspberry, Mr. Wesbury's account is "utterly fascinating." As much as stating that the nearly 20-year-long economic boom did not begin midway through Mr. Reagan's first term, Mr. Raspberry mocks those who he thinks believe that "Reagan had the misfortune to leave office just before his economic genius started to pay off." This is how the self-described nonpartisan, "earnest observer" refers to the 30 percent increase in inflation-adjusted economic output that the nation experienced during the last six years of the Reagan administration.
Even worse, Mr. Raspberry obviously believes that Mr. Wesbury, who is the economist quoted most often in the Insight article, is some sort of quack. As it happens, three days before Mr. Raspberry's hit piece appeared in The Post, the Wall Street Journal's annual survey cited Mr. Wesbury, chief economist at the Chicago investment bank of Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson, as the nation's most accurate economic forecaster for 2001.
Completely contrary to Mr. Raspberry's thesis, liberal commentators are the partisan hacks. How else can one explain the free passes they gave Bill Clinton during the 1992 campaign and Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, both of whom repeatedly made the totally absurd assertion that the Clinton-Gore administration inherited "the worst economy in 50 years"? If Mr. Raspberry would take off his partisan blinders, he would realize that it was Mr. Reagan who faced that challenge. Only then could he really begin to understand who truly was responsible for one of the biggest and longest economic booms in history.

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